Federal regulators have warned offshore drilling rig operators numerous times over the past decade that they needed to install backup systems for their undersea blowout preventers, the devices that are used to stop the flow of oil from a well during an emergency. After the most recent warnings, in 2004 and 2009, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) of the Interior Department (the agency charged with regulating the offshore oil drilling industry and collecting royalties from it) never took steps to address the issue. Instead, the industry assured MMS that it was in control of the problem, and MMS relied on those assurances. Despite this, Transocean, the company that owned and operated the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig for BP, was cited by British authorities twice in recent years for failing to maintain a blowout preventer and related testing equipment on an offshore drill site, and for exposing employees to safety risk. Even with all these ongoing safety concerns, last year BP and other offshore drilling operators joined together to oppose proposed rules to require stricter safety and environmental standards and more frequent inspections of undersea wells. BP claimed that additional regulations weren't needed for offshore drilling and pressed the MMS to let the companies take steps to ensure safety on their own.
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